Softball team excels academically

By Symone Woolridge

Some colleges distinguish students from athletes, but softball Head Coach Kerri Blaylock says they are both equally important.

The Salukis have earned a team grade point average of 3.535 for the 2013 school year, ranking the SIU softball team sixth in the nation of National Collegiate Athletics Association Division I programs.

Blaylock said sports are important, academics fall very high on her priority list, and she has high expectations for her Salukis.


“I consider winning and academics to be equal,” Blaylock said.

Although Blaylock has high standards, she understands that everyone is not an A-student.

“Even if you’re not an A-student, you still need to be the best you can be and we hold you accountable to that,” she said. “If you’re a 3.0 student, then you are going to be the best 3.0 student you can be.”

Just like other college athletic teams, the Salukis have an academic coordinator and an associate athletic director for academics.

“Our academic coordinator is fantastic. She works with the girls one-on-one, day-to-day to make sure they attend all of their study table hours, or she schedules a tutor if necessary,” Blaylock said.

Blaylock, along with Associate Head Coach Jen Sewell and Assistant Coach Buddy Foster, run class checks and collect grade slips.

“My favorite thing to run is the six-week check, where I ask them if there is anything they’re struggling with,” Blaylock said. “If they are getting a C or below, I want to know so I can help them early.”


This season, the Saluki roster is filled with Missouri Valley Conference scholar-athletes.

MVC scholar-athlete senior Kelsea Ashton, a pre-dental major with a minor in chemistry, is applying to dental schools.

Ashton said she was always pushed in her advanced classes in high school, but being on the softball team has been helpful as well.

“I was always taught very good study skills. But I know study table really helps, and the fact that Coach Blaylock really puts emphasis on it,” she said. “I know academics are very important to her, and I think it rubs off on us.”

Although Ashton spends most of her time playing softball or doing schoolwork, she is also a community service representative as well as the representative for the softball team in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

“I am in charge of getting the community service options for the athletes as well as galleries for the athletes or speakers,” she said.

Juggling it all, Ashton said, as she gets easier as she gets older. She said even if something becomes difficult, the softball team helps each other out.

“We have a team group message application on our phones where we can let each other know about any game changes or seek any help if anyone needs it,” Ashton said.

MVC scholar-athlete Junior Kalyn Harker, a biological science major, said she plans to go to physician assistant school or medical school. Harker said time management is the most important thing in college.

“You really have to balance when you can do homework and when you can’t,” she said. “I have class breaks, so if I have practice I will make sure I have my homework done before then.”

Harker said she has a 4.0 GPA and her parents have pushed her to do well academically.

“My parents take academics very seriously. My mom was valedictorian of her high school class so she prides me and herself in academics,” Harker said.

Since some of the younger athletes are taking courses the upperclassmen have already completed, the Salukis make sure they help one another.

“If they need help or need tutoring, we can help them with that or the athletic department will help,” Harker said.

Another MVC scholar-athlete, senior Jayna Spivey, studying biological science, is preparing to graduate in May.

As of last week, Spivey is officially a member of the Physician Assistant program.

“I’m really excited, my parents were excited too so they took me out to dinner to celebrate,” she said. “I didn’t really have a plan B, it is all I’ve ever really wanted to do.”

Spivey said she has a 3.77 GPA and uses as many resources as she can.

“I use a planner, and being so busy I only have about an hour out of my day to study, so I make sure I’m studying during the hour.”

Spivey said she thinks being an athlete has really pushed her into being a great student.

“If I wasn’t an athlete I probably wouldn’t have had such a high GPA,” she said. “If you have all day to do it, you might just put it off, but being a student athlete has taught me time management.”

Symone Woolridge can be reached at 

[email protected] 

or ext. 536-3311 ext. 269.